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Pandora's Promise (2013)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 15 November 2013 (UK)
2:29 | Trailer

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A feature-length documentary about the history and future of nuclear power. The film explores how and why mankind's most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately... See full summary »


Robert Stone


Robert Stone
1 win. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Stewart Brand ... Himself - Founder & Publisher, Whole Earth Catalog
Richard Rhodes Richard Rhodes ... Himself - Author, The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Gwyneth Cravens Gwyneth Cravens ... Herself - Author, Power to Save the World
Mark Lynas ... Himself - Environmental Activist
Michael Shellenberger Michael Shellenberger ... Himself - President & Co-Founder, The Breakthrough Institute
Len Koch Len Koch ... Himself - Pioneering Nuclear Engineer
Charles Till Charles Till ... Himself - Pioneering Nuclear Physicist
Ted Nordhaus Ted Nordhaus ... Himself - Environmental Activist
Robert Kennedy Jr. ... Himself - Environmental Activist (archive footage)
Amory Lovins Amory Lovins ... Himself - Environmental Scientist (archive footage)
Helen Caldicott Helen Caldicott ... Herself - Environmental Activist
James Inhofe James Inhofe ... Himself - Senator, Oklahoma (archive footage)


A feature-length documentary about the history and future of nuclear power. The film explores how and why mankind's most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it. Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, PANDORA'S PROMISE aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important question of our time: how do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it? Written by RS

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What if this cube could power your entire life.




Not Rated


Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »





Release Date:

15 November 2013 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Ящик Пандоры See more »

Filming Locations:

Fukushima, Japan See more »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$22,495, 16 June 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$66,643, 4 August 2013
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


Himself - Author, The Making of the Atomic Bomb: The damage that was caused to people by the fallout from that "worst of all nuclear power accidents" has been remarkably limited.
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User Reviews

A refreshing and balanced look at Nuclear Energy

As an Environmentalist, and someone who cares deeply about the fate of the planet, Pandora's Promise was a refreshing look at the reality of Nuclear Energy.

As a society, we face some tough choices. The traditional environmental movement opposes Nuclear Energy, instead favouring Solar, Wind and other renewables. Unfortunately they cost considerably more than burning fossil fuels, and no amount of technological advancement will change this - it's just way too cheap to dig up coal and chuck it in a furnace. And that's exactly what's happening the world over.

Over 1000 new coal plants are planned worldwide(1). Coal is a killer. Coal plants pump out far more radiation than nuclear power plants, due to the radioactive elements present in coal, which are released into the atmosphere by the burning. Particulates alone are responsible for over 13,000 deaths *per year* in the United States(2), and some estimates say over 100,000 deaths per year in China. This doesn't include coal mining accidents. Even the best coal mines in the US kill over 30 people per year(3). Coal mining killed over 6000 people in China alone in 2004 (3).

Coal is a *killer*. We need to stop burning it. It has killed far more people than nuclear power ever has, and this is something that a lot of people in Environmentalist movement just simply ignore.

Many Environmentalists claim to believe in science - certainly when conservatives deny climate change, environmentalists point to the science. Yet they bury their heads when it comes to Nuclear.

Nuclear Energy has killed *zero* people in the United States (4). There were no deaths after the accident at Three Mile Island, and zero deaths as a result of Fukushima (4). Chernobyl was a catastrophic accident and indeed did lead to many deaths, 56 (4) direct deaths and potentially as many as 4000 premature deaths due to cancer (4), but these figures pale into significance next to the figures on coal.

So how can the environmental movement be so opposed to nuclear? It just does not make sense.

I am in favour of Wind and Solar power, but the wind and the Sun don't provide power 24 hours a day. There are no economic storage methods. We need base load power. We need cheap energy.

So what can provide CO2 free, safe and cheap energy? Nuclear power can. It's a perfect ally of renewable power. Nuclear energy is a natural phenomena, it is responsible for 50% of the heat at the Earths core, without which the planet would be as dead as Mars - without a molten core, solar winds would strip the earth of it's protective outer layer.

Existing Nuclear has many problems, but these are solvable. Unfortunately in the 50s and 60s the world settled on Light Water Reactors. These use Water as a coolant. Because water boils at 100^C, too low a temperature for efficient power production, reactors have to keep the water under pressure to get temperatures high, effectively creating pressure cookers kept at 300 atmospheres. This leads to high cost, and any fault results in steam escaping. In Fukishima, when it lost coolant, the high temperatures disassociated the hydrogen and the oxygen, creating an explosive gas mixture at the top of the building which is what exploded, spreading radiation particles from the reactor core. It just does not make sense to use Water as a coolant.

Nor does it make sense to use solid fuels. All existing reactors use solid fuel, which results in incomplete burn up, approximately 1% of the fuel is used. This produces a large amount of spent fuel, which must either be reprocessed, or stored as waste.

There are solutions. In the 60s, at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, a radically different design was developed, called the Molten Salt reactor. Unfortunately Pandora's Promise didn't cover this at all, but this design solves almost all the problems with existing nuclear power.

In a Molten Salt reactor(6), rather than having solid fuel rods with high pressure water in a pressurised reactor container, you instead dissolve the nuclear fuel in a salt. Thanks to the salt being a liquid, the fuel circulates, allowing 99% of the fuel to be burned, producing just 1% of the waste of existing reactors. Because the salt is already molten, you can't suffer a "meltdown". If the reaction starts to go too fast and get too hot, the salts expand and the reaction slows down - it's inherently self regulating. A failsafe is to have a passively cooled drain tank attached to the reactor - a fan blows over the pipe between the reactor and the drain tank, freezing some of the salt in the tube. If the building loses all power, the fan stops, the plug melts, and the fuel drains into the tank. What's more, reactors of this type can be used to burn existing spent nuclear fuel.

So with an MSR, you have completely safe nuclear energy, vastly reduced waste, with a vastly simpler design. MSRs can also use Thorium as a fuel instead of Uranium, an element as abundant as Lead that's safe to hold in your hand and is produced as byproduct of mining, making it free - people will pay you to take it away.

I'd highly recommend people who care about the environment watch this:


Not all nuclear power plants are equal. Nuclear Power is as far as I'm concerned, humanity's last hope to avoid catastrophic runaway climate change, and I'm desperately fearful that we won't embrace it. If we don't embrace it, the planet is doomed.


1: http://goo.gl/DIksK

2: http://goo.gl/0g8kF

3: http://goo.gl/DOXyb

4: http://goo.gl/B17dt

5: http://goo.gl/i8Qc1

6: http://goo.gl/1LxQs

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